SOUTH Bendigo's push for its first BFNL finals berth since 2012 continues to gather momentum after a stirring nine-point win over Sandhurst in one of the games of the season on Saturday.
The Bloods showed tremendous resilience and grit to twice halt the momentum of the Dragons and, ultimately, pull away to a 16.4 (100) to 13.13 (91) victory at the QEO and remain a game clear in fifth position.
Having had six less scoring shots than the Dragons, the Bloods clearly made far better use of their opportunities inside 50, with class forward Brock Harvey proving a match-winner.
Harvey has had a brilliant season inside 50, with his impact in attack one of the catalysts that has allowed Kaiden Antonowicz to be released into the midfield, where he spent much of the game on Saturday.
Harvey's influence on the contest was profound as he finished the game with a haul of six goals.
Highlighting Harvey's all-round performance was the forward pressure he applied was rewarded with two goals - one in the second quarter and one in the final term when the Bloods needed to respond.
Harvey was electric early, kicking three goals in the first term, while down the other end Sandhurst's Cobi Maxted - whose strong contested marking was again on full display - nailed two goals in the opening quarter on the way to ending the match with four.
The Bloods have faced a season-defining past two games on the QEO against the Dragons and Eaglehawk - both also fighting for their finals aspirations - and come through both tests in games where they had been on the backfoot throughout and then finished strongly with both contests having been in the balance at three quarter-time.
The Dragons after trailing by 10 points at half-time threatened to take a stranglehold on the game when they surged and opened up a 16-point lead during the third term with a wave of momentum behind them.
Kickstarted in the middle by imposing ruckman Hamish Hosking, who was dominant all game, the Dragons kicked 5.3 to 1.0 in the first 22 minutes of the third term.
Two of the goals were kicked by lively small forward Jasper Stewart, who twice marked in space 30m out and nailed the set-shots.
They were among three goals Stewart slotted after he also kicked the Dragons' only major of the second term when he crumbed a pack.
Maxted also booted two of the goals, while Connor Sexton - brought into the side to keep the Dragons' forward structure of three talls intact with Matt Thornton overseas - kicked the other.
At that stage the Dragons led 72-56 and were looking in complete control.
However, a four-minute burst in time-on by the Bloods to end the quarter put the game back on a knifedge at the final change.
Against the run of play Harvey and Antonowicz both marked and converted their set-shots, and when Jayden Sheean goaled after the siren seemingly from nowhere the Bloods - despite having had eight less scoring shots - had gone from 16 points down to leading 74-72 at the final change.
With the game set up for a ripping last term it was the Dragons who made the early running with a pair of set-shot goals to Lachlan Zimmer and Joel Wharton to build a 10-point advantage.
South Bendigo didn't score for the first 13 minutes of the final term, but when Harvey won a holding the ball free kick in the pocket at the city end and checksided the goal, it provided the spark for the Bloods to go on and win the game.
Over the last 15 minutes of the game the Bloods kicked 4.2 to 1.1, although it wasn't until late that the result was sealed.
The game was still up for grabs at the 26-minute mark with South Bendigo leading by two points when Wil McCaig intercepted a Sandhurst defensive 50 kick, gathered the loose ball and goaled from 20m to kick the Bloods a step closer to ending their finals drought.
Having also beaten Sandhurst by eight points in round three, it's the first time the Bloods have defeated the Dragons twice in the home and away season since 2010.
"We've had a big emphasis all week on the importance of the game today and just what it means for our season," said Neale Torpey, who coached the Bloods in the absence of Nathan Horbury (COVID protocols).
"The character the lads have shown over the past couple of games has been fantastic. To be 16 points down late in the third quarter and then kick those three goals really set us up for a battle in the last 30 minutes and the lads stood up."
The Bloods lost defender Braydan Torpey (AC joint) early in the game after landing heavily having flown for a mark.
As well as Harvey's six goals, the Bloods had eight other players hit the scoreboard.
The Dragons - who had Jake Wilkinson playing his 100th game for the club - are the only team to have beaten top side Gisborne this year, yet now find themselves two games outside of the top five.
For Sandhurst coach Ashley Connick, it was a clear case of one that got away.
"It's a strange result in that first glance it doesn't feel like we were beaten in too many areas and there's potentially not a lot we would have done different," Connick said.
"I suppose 13.13 to 16.4 in the end probably tells the story.
"We won inside 50s by double figures, stoppages were something like 30-8, we had more tackles, more marks... everything points to a significant victory, but they have kicked 16 out of 20 shots and we've kicked 13 out of 26 and there it is."
Eaglehawk Seniors 5.2 8.5 12.8 18.11 (119)
Kangaroo Flat Seniors 4.3 5.8 5.8 6.12 (48)
GOALS: Eaglehawk Seniors: N.Wheeler 3, L.Marciano 3, C.McGlashan 2, S.Thompson 2, M.Noden 2, D.Richards 2, B.Rowles 1, B.Evans 1, L.Davis 1, D.Williams 1; Kangaroo Flat Seniors: J.Barras 3, M.Collins 1, L.Wilson 1, M.Rovers 1
BEST: Eaglehawk Seniors: J.Mullen, N.Wheeler, B.Evans, L.Davis, B.Rowles, B.Thompson; Kangaroo Flat Seniors: S.Barnes, B.Franzini, J.Hywood, E.Roberts, C.Smith, J.Barras
Golden Square Seniors 2.6 10.13 21.19 28.24 (192)
Maryborough Seniors 0.1 0.3 3.5 4.5 (29)
GOALS: Golden Square Seniors: J.Brett 10, J.Burke 5, J.Hickman 3, B.Vaz 2, H.Morcom 2, J.Fitzpatrick 2, L.Barrett 2, R.Hartley 1, R.Monti 1; Maryborough Seniors: R.Hamilton 1, P.Van der pol 1, J.Postle 1
BEST: Golden Square Seniors: J.Brett, J.Fitzpatrick, J.Hickman, R.Hartley, J.Burke, M.Compston; Maryborough Seniors: B.Neill, T.Myers, D.Harberger, P.Chard, J.Hooper, A.Hare
Gisborne Seniors 3.4 10.5 14.8 21.11 (137)
Castlemaine Seniors 1.0 2.1 3.1 3.2 (20)
GOALS: Gisborne Seniors: H.Thomas 7, S.Graham 3, J.Normington 3, T.Fraser 2, D.Davie 2, L.Ellings 1, S.Bell-Bartels 1, M.Panuccio 1, M.Lord 1; Castlemaine Seniors: T.Horne 1, A.Mayes 1, B.Henderson 1
BEST: Gisborne Seniors: S.Bell-Bartels, F.Lakey, M.Panuccio, H.Thomas, S.Graham, M.Lord; Castlemaine Seniors: B.Henderson, J.Chester, T.Horne, J.Watson, K.Mcbride, R.Pedretti
South Bendigo Seniors 5.1 8.1 12.2 16.4 (100)
Sandhurst Seniors 4.5 5.9 10.12 13.13 (91)
GOALS: South Bendigo Seniors: B.Harvey 6, A.Smith 2, K.Antonowicz 2, W.Keck 1, W.McCaig 1, B.Poyser 1, M.Herlihy 1, J.Sheean 1, J.Sheahan 1; Sandhurst Seniors: C.Maxted 4, J.Stewart 3, L.Zimmer 1, C.Sexton 1, J.Wilkinson 1, L.Hood 1, J.McLean 1, J.Wharton 1
BEST: South Bendigo Seniors: B.Harvey, A.Smith, I.Miller, M.Herlihy, Z.Hare, L.Byrne; Sandhurst Seniors: H.Hosking, T.Nally, Z.Pallpratt, C.Maxted, J.Rodi, L.Hood
Strathfieldsaye Seniors 5.4 8.6 9.9 12.11 (83)
Kyneton Seniors 2.2 5.5 7.9 9.12 (66)
GOALS: Strathfieldsaye Seniors: L.Sharp 3, J.Schischka 3, L.Gill 1, C.McCarty 1, K.Geary 1; Kyneton Seniors: R.Magin 4, G.Dickson 2, J.Gaff 1, D.Bartrop 1, J.Orr 1
BEST: Strathfieldsaye Seniors: C.McCarty, J.Moorhead, B.Lester, M.Hallinan, J.Hall, J.Schischka; Kyneton Seniors: J.Gaff, D.Bartrop, J.Orr, H.Huntley, G.Dickson, S.Georgiou
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